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Rep. Troy Nehls responds to report that military documents contradict medal claims

5/6: CBS Morning News
5/6: CBS Morning News 20:11

Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas on Monday posted photographs of documents which appear to show two separate Bronze Star medal citations, saying it was proof that Defense Department records showing he received only one Bronze Star medal from his time in the U.S. Army are incorrect. 

The response from Nehls came in the wake of a monthslong investigation by CBS News and a review of his service record by the U.S. Army at the Pentagon which showed that Nehls received one — not two — Bronze Star medals. The CBS News investigation also found his Combat Infantryman Badge from Afghanistan was revoked from his service record in March 2023 because Nehls served as a civil affairs officer, not as an infantryman or Special Forces soldier. The congressman continues to wear the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin on his suit. 

"The Department of Defense (DoD) claims I was awarded only one Bronze Star. Wrong. I have two," Nehls said on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

He added: "For the doubters: See below for the Department of the Army 638 Award Forms with signatures for my two Bronze Star Medals awarded in 2004 and 2008."

CBS News has not been able to verify the validity of the documents or the congressman's second Bronze Star medal. Nehls has not addressed his Combat Infantryman Badge being rescinded. 

Contacted by CBS News on Monday, the Pentagon said it would again examine if Nehls in fact does have a second Bronze Star medal. The Pentagon had previously concluded that the congressman received one Bronze Star medal which is reflected in Nehls' military records obtained by CBS News. 

Emily Matthews, Nehls' press secretary, declined to discuss the matter or provide any explanation for the discrepancies after multiple inquiries from CBS News. His office did not respond to additional questions sent last week and on Monday by CBS News about the second Bronze Star medal and his Combat Infantryman Badge being revoked.  

"Congressman Nehls doesn't wear medals he wasn't awarded," said Matthews after CBS News declined an off-record arrangement with Nehls' office. 

House Rules Committee April 18
Rep. Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, is seen during an April 2024 House Rules Committee meeting wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Bronze Star medal is the eighth-highest award in the U.S. Army and dates back to World War II. Service members can be awarded the medal for heroic actions in combat or for meritorious performance under what the Army describes as "combat conditions." 

In his 2020 campaign ad posted to Facebook, Nehls is seen in his Army uniform wearing his military decorations with the top ribbon signifying him being the recipient of two Bronze Star medals. The ad states that Nehls "fought terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan" and that "he led troops into battle receiving 2 Bronze Stars." On his official House of Representatives website, Nehls also lists in his biography as having two Bronze Star medals while his photograph shows him wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin. 

Military records obtained by CBS News show that Nehls' Bronze Star medal listed in his files was awarded to him in September 2004 by now-retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste for his service in Iraq. The award citation obtained by CBS News reads in part: "Captain Nehls trained and mentored nine Iraqi staff members and four coalition soldiers assigned to the Kirkuk Business Center, which became known as the best business center in all of Iraq." 

The Bronze Star medal citation posted by Nehls on Monday, which is not reflected in his records, is from his time in Afghanistan and is not as detailed as his citation from 2004. The award, signed by now-retired Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, reads in part: "Major Nehls' personal courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone, under the most extreme of circumstances, greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom."

The wearing of unearned medals and badges especially within the military and veteran communities is considered deeply offensive. In September 2023, veterans on social media began to criticize Nehls after he posted a photograph of himself on social media in Washington D.C. holding up handcuffs in response to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York pulling the fire alarm in a Capitol office building ahead of a last-minute House vote to avert a government shutdown. 

In the photo, the Texas congressman is wearing a Combat Infantryman Badge lapel pin, which traces its roots back to World War II and today is awarded to Army soldiers in the infantry and Special Forces community engaged in active ground combat. 

The Pentagon said Nehls does not have a Combat Infantryman Badge but instead a Combat Action Badge. U.S. Army regulations distinguish between how the two badges are awarded. 

Army vet battles for truth against "stolen valor" 04:44

With historical exceptions, the Combat Infantryman Badge is awarded to Army soldiers in the infantry and Special Forces community engaged in active ground combat. The Combat Action Badge — created in 2005 — is for Army soldiers outside those job fields but who are also "actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy," according to U.S. Army publications. 

In February 2006, Nehls was retroactively awarded the Combat Action Badge for his 2004 deployment to Iraq, per military records obtained by CBS News. 

While Nehls began his military career as an enlisted infantryman with the Wisconsin National Guard in July 1988, by 2004, Nehls was a civil affairs officer at the rank of captain. He ended his military service at the rank of major. 

Military records obtained by CBS News show that Nehls was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge in October 2008 for his actions in Afghanistan seven months prior in March 2008. This decoration was also listed on Nehls' official discharge and separation documents, known as DD Form 214. 

However, Nehls' military records and the Pentagon confirm that in March 2023, the Texas congressman's service record was amended, which ultimately revoked his Combat Infantryman Badge. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that the badge was rescinded due to Nehls serving as a civil affairs officer versus the role of an infantryman or Special Forces soldier. 

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